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Bright reprise hints at Mamma Mia's potential

REVIEW Mamma Mia! Where: Royal Theatre When: Tuesday evening. Runs until Sunday Tickets: $79, $89, available online at rmts.bc.ca, by phone at 250-386-6121 or at the McPherson Theatre box office. Partially obstructed view seats, $20 off.

REVIEW

Mamma Mia!

Where: Royal Theatre

When: Tuesday evening. Runs until Sunday

Tickets: $79, $89, available online at rmts.bc.ca, by phone at 250-386-6121 or at the McPherson Theatre box office.

Partially obstructed view seats, $20 off.

Rating: 2 (out of five)

After the final act of Tuesday's opening-night performance, the cast of Mamma Mia! re-emerged to perform a spirited encore consisting of three of ABBA's bestloved hits.

Campy, futuristic costumes, exaggerated dance moves and towering vocals were in full effect. Obviously benefiting from the '70s Swedish pop group's irrepressible melodies, the romp had audience members dancing in the aisles.

If only this enthusiasm had been served up earlier, the cast would have had a hit on its hands.

Otherwise, this touring production of Mamma Mia! was a decidedly lacklustre affair, hardly deserving of its titular exclamation point.

The much-beloved 1999 musical needs oomph for several reasons, not the least of which is its somewhat fantastical premise.

In preparation for her wedding, Sophie Sheridan, the 20year-old daughter of an American single mother who runs an inn on a Greek island, covertly sends invitations to three of her mom's former flames. She suspects one is her father, but isn't sure which, and hopes the truth will be revealed before she walks down the aisle.

On the eve of the wedding, all three - an Australian, an American and a Brit - show up to the rustic, sun-drenched locale.

As fans of Shakespeare and Maury know well, this type of scenario is rife with comedic and melodramatic possibilities. The musical's creators clearly recognized this and hence, embedded the script with corny double entendres, silly stock characters and ample moments to play up slapstick physical humour.

But over-the-top performances are very much required to pull it all off.

Crucially, Mamma Mia!'s cast failed on this front. Kaye Tuckerman, the Aussie ex-pat who plays Donna, Sophie's mother, seldom appeared sufficiently angry, bemused or bewildered at the outof-the-blue appearances of her past flings. Her suitors' reactions were similarly unbelievable.

And though the production didn't lack in vocal or dancing talent, the musical numbers, with exceptions, felt strained and phoned-in.

Chloe Tucker was the evening's notable bright spot. Projecting a Sophie who's equally wide-eyed and brave, she consistently punched well above her weight, reacting with vigour to the absurd circumstances her character brought into being. Her passion, which extended to her singing and dancing, came as welcome refreshment.

It wasn't until the three-song reprise when Tucker's castmates came close to matching the ingenue's energy.

Belatedly, they channelled the bring-the-house-down bombast that had been missing all along.

One has to wonder whether the show's failure was a result of opening-night jitters or some deeper malaise.

Regardless of the cause, the encore served as merciful proof that this take on Mamma Mia! isn't beyond repair.

cruf@timescolonist.com

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